Has your website grown a lot and your current hosting service is no longer up to your expectations? Do pages often load slowly or does the site hang and is no longer reachable? It means that, even for your site, the time has come to abandon shared hosting to move to something more powerful and professional like a dedicated server or, more likely, a VPS (also called VPS Hosting).
In this guide we will try to explain you, in a detailed way but as simple as possible, what a VPS is, because it could be extremely advantageous for your online business and, above all, how to choose and buy the right one for your specific needs, finally, listing those that, in our opinion, are the best VPS on the market.
What is a VPS (Virtual Private Server)?
Let’s start by saying that VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. These three words are very important because they very clearly define the main aspects of a VPS:
- it is a server: we are no longer talking about hosting but of a real server, that is, of a wider, more powerful and complex environment than the classic shared hosting to which we have been accustomed until now;
- it is virtual: our server can not be identified with a “physical” hardware in its own right (in this it differs from a dedicated server ) but it is a simulated environment (precisely virtual) within a more complex hardware system shared with other clients;
- it is private: the virtual environment is dedicated, the resources purchased are guaranteed and there is no risk of interference with other virtual systems present within the same hardware.
In a sense we can say that a VPS is a middle ground between the classic shared hosting and a dedicated server, being able to offer its users the advantages of both these services: the costs are reduced as the hardware is shared as in the shared hosting (so much so that we talk about VPS Hosting), but the power and flexibility are comparable to those of a real dedicated server!
VPS: What differences compared to shared hosting?
We said that a VPS is still a shared service, but then why should it be better than a classic hosting?
The answer is simple: because in shared hosting all the resources are shared among the websites present in the system, so it is not possible to have administrative access nor customize the environment (except for limited aspects) and, more importantly, our site may be exposed to any blockages or slowdowns in the system caused by other websites on the same server.
With a VPS Hosting, instead, while sharing the same hardware, the environment – thanks to modern virtualization systems – is totally independent of the others: this means that we will have full administrative powers within our (virtual) system and the most extensive possibilities for software customization. But not only: with a VPS we will have the guarantee that the resources purchased (both in terms of CPU, RAM and disk space) will actually be “dedicated” to our website without incurring the risk that others may consume them in our place causing down or slow down on our pages.
VPS: What differences compared to a dedicated server?
VPS and dedicated server are similar in many ways: freedom of customization and dedicated resources, in fact, characterize both services. The only aspect that differentiates a dedicated server from a VPS is the ability to directly manage the system’s hardware resources. From the performance point of view a dedicated server, with the same resources, can be better than a VPS hosting, but its management requires high skills in the system field and involves much higher costs also and especially in the start-up phase.
Things to Consider When Choosing a VPS
Identifying the best VPS in relation to your needs, especially if you don’t have the right technical skills, could be anything but simple. The purpose of this guide of ours, therefore, is to help the reader make an informed choice of the right VPS service, offering a criterion as objective as possible, based on very precise characteristics on which to “measure” the different proposals of the market.
We see below the things that should be considered before purchasing your next VPS.
Resources (CPU, RAM and Disk Space)
The first element to be evaluated when purchasing a VPS are the hardware features of the virtual server. If you have decided to abandon our old hosting service, it is probably because your website has grown a lot revealing the need to have more resources to “run” properly. But what and how many resources does your website need?
The hardware features of a VPS are measured in terms of CPU, RAM and storage.
When choosing a new VPS, first of all, pay attention to the number of CPUs covered by the offer. It is important to point out that usually the CPUs indicated do not necessarily correspond to as many “physical” CPUs: modern virtualization systems, in fact, have introduced the concept of vCore ( virtual core ) to distinguish “virtual” CPUs from “physical” CPUs. In practice, the real computational capacity of the hardware of the “physical” system is divided into a certain number of virtual processors which determine the computing capacity of the individual virtual servers to which they are assigned.
The importance of the CPU is linked to the complexity of the operations that the server is called upon to carry out: if your site is mainly composed of dynamic pages that perform calculations or perform complex queries on locally installed databases, then the choice of an offer of VPS with a good number of cores appears essential for the good functioning of the site. Conversely, if your site is mainly based on static content, the purchase of a VPS with a single processor could be more than adequate.
Partly similar point should be made for RAM: having an adequate amount of volatile memory is extremely important when you regularly use complex applications or are subjected to intense traffic. If it is true that the processing speed is determined by the CPU, in fact, it is equally true that the possible saturation of the RAM would result in a considerable slowdown of our site, despite the potential offered by the processor.
On the market it is possible to find offers that start from 1 up to 16Gb of RAM: according to us, to opt for a VPS with a single Giga of RAM could be quite risky unless, as already mentioned for the CPU, our site do not mainly use static resources.
The last hardware feature to consider when choosing a VPS is the storage capacity, that is the storage space for our data. How many GB our site is used for is rather easy to measure: in fact, it will be sufficient to “size” the sum of the files, folders, eventual databases and mailboxes that make it up, in order to have a reliable unit of measurement. It should be pointed out that the data obtained must be considered as indicative as it will always be a good option to purchase a greater amount of space, both to give your site the opportunity to grow and to allow the server to archive any system files without problems. log or other data necessary for its correct functioning (attention that the size of the chosen operating system and of any software must be considered in the calculation of the necessary storage).
Data Traffic and Bandwidth
An important element in the evaluation of the various VPS offers is, without a doubt, the bandwidth and the possible limit to the data traffic .
The bandwidth determines the amount of data that can pass at the same time: it is clear that a greater amplitude determines a better capacity for the system to support a greater number of simultaneous requests. With regards to this point, it is advisable to always check the guaranteed service levels, such as the minimum bandwidth made available to each individual account.
A different point is the one related to the amount of data that can transit monthly:: in this case, therefore, it is no longer a problem of speed, but a real limit that determines what is the maximum quantity of data transmitted to and from your VPS within a month. Usually this measure is expressed in GB or, more frequently, in TB.
But how much traffic does your website need? To calculate this value you can turn to your current hosting provider (which will surely have a precise data to supply) or, alternatively, you can take rough (calculation) based on the number of pages viewed on a monthly basis multiplied by the average size of a web page. As an example, let us suppose that your website monthly delivers one million page views and that the average size of each page (including HTML, images and any other multimedia elements) is 300 Kb. At this point it would be enough to carry out a simple multiplication :
1,000,000 * 300 Kb = 286 GB
The data obtained, as mentioned, is purely indicative but still represents a useful reference in the choice of your new VPS.
Definitely important is to know and correctly evaluate the overall characteristics of the provider’s infrastructure from which we decided to purchase our new VPS. With the term “infrastructure” we refer to a set of overall characteristics concerning the Network, the Hardware as well as some software features regarding the global nature of the offer.
A renowned provider that can boast redundant data-centers and state-of-the-art hardware is certainly preferable: but what are the features to “keep an eye on”?
- Certainly it is preferable to opt for cloud- based offers compared to simple VPS installed within individual physical servers: an architecture of this type, in fact, guarantees a greater level of security and continuity of the service, being the latter disconnected from any single server issues. In this case we are not talking about VPS but, more correctly, about Cloud Server .
- Another relevant factor is the use of latest-generation hardware such as Intel Xeon processors (whose latest versions were designed specifically for virtualization) and SSD disks(which guarantee incredibly inferior data access times compared to classic magnetic disks).
- To consider also the choice of the virtualization system (so-called hypervisor ) adopted by the provider for the creation and management of its VPS: the most famous software are, certainly, VMware , XEN , Virtuozzo , Hyper V, KVM and OpenVZ . But what is the best and what changes “in a nutshell” for the VPS end user? Let’s start by saying that VMware and XEN are bare metal solutions and therefore guarantee a higher level of efficiency and stability than client solutions, as they have direct management of hardware computing resources without having to go through other software or operating systems. In particular, solutions based on VMware, usually characterized by a higher price than the others, are particularly suitable for mission critical type activities. Obviously this does not mean that the other hypervisors are to be discarded a priori, since in the common areas (web hosting in the first place ) all the mentioned software offered good results, while remaining VMware and XEN the most solid choices in dealing with less conventional needs .
When purchasing a new virtual server, it is advisable to verify the presence or absence of an automatic backup service or the possibility to perform a manual backup of the server: in this way we will have the certainty of having all the necessary tools to guarantee the security of the our precious data.
Attention because sometimes these services could lead to an extra charge: when choosing, therefore, it is good to make sure that the possibility of making backups is included in the monthly cost of the VPS.
Possibility of upgrades
Usually all providers offer the possibility to upgrade to the higher VPS offer, however it is good to make sure of this possibility in order to avoid finding yourself, in the future, in a new situation of scarce resources. Having the opportunity to upgrade means leaving the door open for future development, for a new growth of the site without having to evaluate the migration to new shores.
Attention: if the upgrade is normally contemplated, vice versa the possibility of a downgrade is not usually allowed (with rare exceptions). In purchasing a VPS, therefore, it will be necessary to weigh carefully all our needs and buy the most suitable configuration without exceeding, since – in the normal case – it will not be possible to “take steps back” towards more modest solutions if there is any notice of an oversizing of the system with respect to the real needs.
Geolocation of IP
This, very often, is a neglected aspect when choosing a VPS, but knowing the actual geographical location ( geolocation ) of the servers can be quite important for a double order of aspects. First of all because the geographic proximity of the server to the reference target of our site helps to improve its performance: it is inevitable, in fact, that proximity influences travel times (of data) from one node to another in the Network. Activate a VPS that is territorially “close” to the reference users, in fact, reduces latency times and improves the overall performance of the site.
But not only: a correct geolocation of IP, in fact, will help our site also from an SEO point of view, given that the increase in the speed of loading web pages will allow us to improve our position in Google’s SERPs (in reference to to our reference market, of course).
When choosing the VPS, therefore, it is advisable to inquire in advance about the locations of the servers and / or about the possibility of choosing (now offered by many providers) about the geographical location of the data center to which to activate the VPS.
A golden rule in the web hosting industry is to always inquire about guaranteed service levels ( SLAs ) before buying. The surely most important datum concerns the guaranteed uptime : in these cases we have, in fact, the guarantee of a high continuity of the service being provided for forms of compensation in case the promised level is not maintained.
How not to talk about assistance? It is a crucial element in the world of web hosting. But in the case of VPS it is important to make a distinction: when you buy a virtual server, in fact, you normally assume the responsibility of making it work properly: we will have to worry about any system problems, install patches and configure services according to our needs. Having a server, in fact, requires a certain self-sufficiency in the management of the system, something absolutely not required with traditional hosting plans, where the management of the server is totally delegated to the provider.
But if your site needs a VPS and you can’t manage it, how can you do it? Fortunately, the market has also thought of this: although VPS offers are mostly unmanaged, there are also managed services where, in practice, the VPS is managed by the provider’s technicians exactly as if it were a sort of dedicated hosting. By opting for a managed solution, as it is easy to understand, the costs increase considerably, as this type of service is offered at prices that are not always cheap. The choice between a managed and an unmanaged service obviously depends on the skills and knowledge of each.
Having made this necessary premise, however, it must be emphasized that the service provider is always and in any case obliged to offer technical assistance on all the problems related to the infrastructure and the network, therefore it is always a good idea to choose a company that offers prompt assistance, better if 24h for 365 days a year. Personally, I always recommend having an eye for companies that are also available for telephone assistance, as, in certain circumstances, having the opportunity to speak with a technician helps to solve problems more quickly by avoiding long email exchanges .
Obviously the price cannot be considered, but – as I have said in other contexts as well – this must never be the sole and only criterion of choice. The economic factor, in fact, must be carefully weighed within the context of our needs and expectations, remembering that levels that are too basic of price are likely to correspond to very high levels of dissatisfaction.
The Best VPS: our choices
But what are the best services for those looking for a virtual server? Below we have listed what, in our opinion, are the best providers in the world. Comments and suggestions in the comments on the article are always welcome.